AT THE end of Helen Storey's catwalk show in London last week, the models emerged in a series of dresses made from Vogue patterns using fabrics costing no more than pounds 40.

The designer, who was one of 13 names showing at London Fashion Week, was making the point that modern designer fashion is within the grasp of everyone, not simply those with money.

She said: 'If old couture is dead, ingenuity must take its place.'

The future of fashion is up for grabs this season. The recession has certainly proved a catalyst for change. It has hurried on the demise of power dressing and the arrival of a wave of 'grunge'- type looks. More than ever, fashion is for free spirits, for individuals rather than label victims.

So now we need to rethink the way we review fashion shows. The overview of each designer's collection becomes less important. We can pick out specific garments, mix and match them however we want. So let's look forward to autumn by selecting a panne coat by Caroline Charles, a brocade patchwork jacket by Helen Storey, a soft cardigan jacket by Betty Jackson, a ski sweater by Nicholas Knightly, a crepe dress by Edina Ronay.

It was a strong London Fashion Week; established names were on form, while new ones side-stepped the Biba revival and concentrated on purity of cut and line.

The new designers are led by Pascale Smets, Nicholas Knightly and Ellis Flyte and Richard Ostell, of Flyte Ostell. Also jostling for a hearing are Paul Frith, Abe Hamilton and Sonnetag Mulligan. Most of these new names are underfunded, but it was ever thus in British fashion.

More to the point, many of the grand old fashion houses in Paris are having a rough old time. Suddenly, in the new scheme of things, the cottage- industry scale of British fashion designer businesses does not seem such a bad thing after all. Small can be beautiful.

What next for London Fashion Week? Annette Worsley-Taylor, who held together this season's event, says it is time for reflection. The designers have to make their own minds up whether to move to Paris en masse, or whether

to make a commitment to support another season in London. Either way, they will have to move fast if the

sponsors and the organisational will-power are to be found.

(Photograph omitted)